Surrounded by coastline, Italy is full of fresh seafood. Blessed by abundant sunshine, it is also full of richly flavored tomatoes. This means that the two often appear in the same dish and that creates a challenge for food and wine matching.
White wines always seem to fall a little short against the acids of the tomatoes and reds always taste a little more tannic contrasted against the seafood. Italians usually don’t give this much thought and make do with whatever is local. A tried and true solution is rosè, but good rosé can be hard to find. Fans of salmon and tuna long ago discovered the natural combination of pinot noir with robust fish dishes and the often garlicky and a bit spicy fish and tomato combinations of Italy fall in the same category. The problem is that wines like that are hard to find in Italy. Oddly enough a good solution can be found in the hills of Tuscany far from the fresh seafood restaurants on the coast.
The fine pinot noir vineyards of Marchesi Pancrazi are a lucky mistake. For years they produced an ordinary light red wine thought to be sangiovese; then an enologist visiting owner Vittorio Pancrazi discovered the vineyards were in fact planted with pinot noir vines. These mis-identified vines were planted in 1975 and not correctly identified until 1989. This mistake made Vittorio Pancrazi the owner of the oldest pinot noir vines in Toscana and started him off in what was to become a passion: to make great pinot noir in Toscana.
The Marchesi Pancrazi pinot noir has now well established itself as one of the best pinot noir wines in Toscana and in fact in all of Italy. Dedicated research has adjusted Burgundian winemaking methods to the unique soils an climate of the Pancrazi vineyards which are located on the estate, dateing from the fifteenth-century, west of Firenze. New clones of pinot noir have been selected and vineyards replanted all with the goal of great pinot noir in mind. Fortunately not all the attention was focused only on great wines and in the process Marchesi Pancrazi has also created a charming and easy wine for everyday drinking that happens to go perfectly with the seafood and tomato dishes where we started.
The Pancrazi San Donato is made from 50% pinot noir and 50% gamay. The gamay undergoes carbonic maceration and this blend offers the charming fruit that this style of fermentation produces along with a balancing backbone from the pinot noir. In San Donato, Vittorio Pancrazi has created a lovely cru Beaujolais styled wine.
2001 Marchesi Pancrazi, San Donato, Toscano Rosso IGT
Tasting Notes: Sparkling bright scarlet with ruby hints. Just translucent. Lovely fruity floral nose filled with wild strawberry aromas. Spicy and very fruity on the palate with bright sweet canned cherry and ripe strawberry flavors. The finish is bright and fresh. A charming, appealing wine that should be served cool. Besides tomato, fish and seafood stews like San Francisco’s cioppino, France’s bouillabaisse, or Italy’s zuppa di pesce in its many forms this is a perfect wine for any casual occasion where many different types of foods will be served.
A Neil Empson selection